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Malaysia 101: When Taxpayers’ Money Hits The Palace’s Fan

Istana Negara Palace Malaysia

(The old palace is already looking majestic and we have already spent millions on it but we went ahead to construct a new palace. We end up looking like dungus but what the heck, we been in that situation before. The new palace looks good on paper but the volume of abuse and mismanagement of funds to build it makes the whole affair end up looking too ugly. Image source: Tok Ey Ai)

Hong Kong-based Asia Sentinel reports

….there is the matter of the cost of building a new national palace for the country’s sultans, which has doubled from RM400 million (US$124.2 million) to RM811 million since the contract was let – without bid — in 2006 under the premiership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and may well triple, according to government insiders.

And whilst this has been happening, theStar reports:-

Many foreign workers hired to build the RM800mil Istana Negara claim that they have not received three months’ wages from some project sub-contractors.

There are over 1,000 migrant workers hired by 130 sub-contractors working at the project site.

By using migrant workers, the contractors already maximising their profit margin. So, who been pocketing the money meant for the workers?

But the increased cost of construction of the new palace was not a big surprise – especially in Malaysia. Certainly, in time, the shit will hit the (palace’s) fan and the responsible people are going to wash their hands – just wait and see.

We have a very bad record of management of public funds – there are plenty of leakages that is yet to be plugged by the government of the day. We already heard of paying above the market price for military hardware just because someone decided to make a huge sum of money through “commissions” (in layperson term – bribery).

Another example is PKFZ – that mess is yet to be entangled and it is likely that the public is going to made to pay for that mess (whilst the greedy ones escape with millions in their bank).

Anyway, that is not what disturbs me because unless we kick the Government of the day into the wilderness, mismanagement of public funds is just going to continue (just look at the “rape” in Sarawak).

What disturbs me is this:-

“Syed Mokhtar got the original contract at RM400 million. Then the Raja of Perlis was given a gratuity and his brother, Syed Anwar Jamallulail, became Syed Mokhtar’s 30 percent partner and costs escalated,” said a source.

“When the current king came in – the Sultan of Terengganu — he asked for a piece of the action and costs went up again.

It was brought up in cabinet in December by an MCA minister. [Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, minister in the prime minister’s department for parliamentary affairs] replied:

“So what? It’s the house of a Malay King, not a Chinese contractor.” Needless to say, no one has brought it up since.”

(Source Asia Sentinel)

First disturbing part – that our royalties been “accused” as being the factor for the increase of the construction cost. Are we going to keep quiet on this? If it is not true, then what we are doing to clear our names? But if it is true, then the question – are we going to investigate further?

Second disturbing part – If it is true, what Nazri is trying to say? That corruption and blatant increase of cost are acceptable just because the construction is being done for a Malay King?

Isn’t that an insult to the King and Malaysians as a whole? Nazri missed the whole point! It is nothing to do with constructing a new palace for the King, but the underlying reasons for the increase of the construction cost.

A reader in Malaysia Today rightfully commented:-

As I was just saying, in Sweden, recent royal wedding caused a massive public revolt over public footing half the bill (10 million kronor or RM4.25 million ringgit) while M’sians are constantly being FLEECED left right and centre for this palace, that palace and god knows what else.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the institution, Raja-Raja Melayu and the rotating Agong BUT dead set against the blatant stealing that takes place.

Already, cost overrun on this latest palace in Jln Duta and mind you all, the palace hasn’t been completed so we can’t ascertain the total ‘damage’ just yet but it would be more than current and revise estimate – that I’m sure.

If the escalation of the cost was due to an increase in the cost of raw materials or major changes to the layout of the palace (perhaps new security and facilities) – we would have been more than happy to foot the bill. After all, Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of state and deserves the rightful respect and honour. And we would have been proud of the new palace.

But what is not acceptable is that the escalation of the cost was due to someone wanted to make money for no valid reasons. Why should the taxpayers foot the extra money so that someone could go laughing all the way to the bank? Who are these people and what they have done for the taxpayers?

In developed countries, such act is known by many names – “daylight robbery”, “stealing”, “corruption”, “fraud”, “breach of trust”, etc. But in Malaysia, it is known simply as “escalation of construction cost”.

If this continues, forget about Malaysia being a developed country in the near future. Najib says 2020 but with wastages and mismanagement of public funds still riding high and fast, the “developed by 2020” deadline is going to be one steep hill to climb.

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